Wake Up and Walk Up: Tips from Leaders on Their Toughest Days

Wake Up and Walk Up: Tips from Leaders on Their Toughest Days

Good leaders possess number of qualities. One that Jack Welch often talks about is having energy and the ability to energize others. As a leader, you have to be able to get your team pumped up and keep morale high. Your energy sets the mood for the day, so it better be good.

But we all have bad days. Some days you feel tired, cranky, anxious, or just generally down. A trade-off of being a leader, however, is that an off day is not an option. Even for a day, a bad attitude around the office, especially from its leader, is toxic to morale, creativity, and productivity—not just because you set the tone for the office but also because your team is likely to read into your attitude. Does this mean numbers are down? Is someone going to get fired? Did that meeting with the client not go well? We’re all prone to worry, especially when our leader isn’t being themselves. In order to lead, you’ve got to be able to snap out of it, get yourself together, and move on.

But how do you bring out your best self on your worst day?

  • One trick is to have a walk-up song. It can be your mental jolt to bring you some needed focus and increase your energy.  Admitting, on occasion, I need a little intro to “Kashmir” by Led Zeppelin before I leave the car to enter the office.  Baseball players select and change-up their walk-up song to get themselves ready to face 90 MPH fastballs and everyone watched Michael Phelps during the Olympics plugged into his headphones right up until the moment he hopped on the platform to win numerous gold metals.  This trick can get you feeling good, powerful, and ready to go.
  • Another trick that business leaders may borrow from elite athletes is visualization. So much has been written about the need for companies to define a vision—and rightly so. A good one communicated well can be inspirational to the C-suite right on down to the front lines. Then why not have a vision for how your day should go? Before you set foot in the office, conjure up mental images of, say, the optimal outcome for your morning meeting, getting a call that your firm landed that big contract, and praising an employee for a job well done. Psychology Today contributor Angie LeVan writes that, “mental practices can enhance motivation, increase confidence and self-efficacy, improve motor performance and prime your brain for success.”
  • A final tactic would be to list all the issues weighing on you or getting you down. Really take a moment to think about why you’re out of sorts, give each issue its due by writing it down, and then leave that piece of paper in the car or on your dresser—at home where it belongs. You can return to your preoccupations after work, but for now, you’ve got to hit the “pause” button.


No one ever said it was easy being a great leader. But you can create tricks for yourself to make it easier—even on the hardest days. What’s your walk-up song?

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